The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Campus addresses abortion, women’s rights

Mary Kate Malone | Thursday, December 2, 2004

With a sense of humor and the wisdom that comes from personal experience, Sally A. Winn spoke in Debartolo Wednesday night about abortion’s negative effect on the power of feminism.

Winn, a graduate of Indiana University and vice president of Feminists for Life of America, was brought to the University by Notre Dame Right to Life.

Winn recognized the difficulty of being pro-life in today’s culture.

“It is hard to stand up on campus and be pro-life,” she said. “The environment is generally hostile altogether. But through dialogue, we can get something done.”

Winn spoke to her audience about the historical roots of the pro-life movement. Despite the common conception that feminists are pro-choice advocates, a look into the history of the women’s rights movement reveals otherwise.

“Believe it or not, pro-life feminism is not an oxymoron,” Winn said. “It is entirely congruent with the fundamental feminist principles that brought about the women’s rights movement.”

In fact, many early American feminists were opposed to abortion. Winn cited such famous figures as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Blackwell as being highly vocal critics of abortion.

Citing alarming statistics of the frequency of abortions, Winn challenged her audience to question why the procedures are so common in our culture.

“Today, there are 1.3 million surgical abortions every year,” she said. “Every 37 seconds, your sister, your girlfriend, your daughter, your best friend, is laying down her body for an abortion. Why?”

According to the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the top two reasons why women resort to abortion are lack of financial resources and lack of emotional support. This is a telling fact according to Winn.

“What it comes down to is that women are being coerced by well-meaning friends and family to have abortions,” Winn said. “Or by the boyfriend who says, ‘Oh honey we can’t afford a baby’. Oh, like he wasn’t in the room?”

In her speech, Winn focused on the need for society to provide resources and support for college women who are pregnant. The lack of support, coupled with the social stigma of an unwed mother on a college campus, are responsible for the fact that one in five abortions are performed on college age women.

“Women are not men. We have children so get over it, don’t make us fit into a male model,” Winn said. “Why should we have to sacrifice our bodies for our career goals?”

As a woman who has had first-hand experience of being pregnant in college, Winn referred to the overwhelming lack of support universities provide for pregnant women.

“One in 10 women will become pregnant this year. Where do they go? They drop out or have abortions because there is usually no place to live for undergraduates, no day care, and no maternal coverage in student health care.”

Since universities generally do not provide resources for pregnant women, they leave many women with no choice but to have an abortion, she said.

“Yale University will pay for three abortions in the student health care package. How much for prenatal care delivery? None. Tell me, where is my free choice?”

Immensely grateful that she chose not to have an abortion as a junior at Indiana University, Winn described her experience as thoroughly challenging, but not in the least regrettable.

“It is not an easy road, but it is so gratifying,” she said. “My daughter is the love of my life”

Still the need for change at college campuses nationwide has never been greater.

“It is so obvious that something needs to be done. Pro-life and Pro-choice advocates need to stop screaming at each other and be a catalyst for change.”

To do this, panels should be created on campuses, comprised of powerful decision makers who are willing to ask themselves why they are not providing for their pregnant students, she said.

Referring to the success of a new day care program at Georgetown University, Winn said that if goals are set and people are willing to come together, women will benefit greatly.

Winn closed her speech by emphasizing the need to maintain the power of being feminine. Pregnancy is part of womanhood, and a gift that must be treasured, she said.

“We have spent the last 30 years proving we can make it in a man’s world. Now we have to concentrate on being ourselves.”